When I was beginning my journey with Patrick and Logan for The Experiment I used a book called Story Genius to help me dig deeper into the backgrounds of the characters. This involved writing a few short scenes from their pasts that helped solidify their flawed worldviews. This month, I thought I’d share one of those background scenes with you. If you haven’t read The Experiment yet, this is NOT a spoiler. It’s more of a glimpse into the development of Patrick’s mindset, which he still has when the book opens.
Setting the Scene: This scene is set when Patrick is about thirteen years old. It’s entirely PG.
I don’t miss Danny anymore.
It’s a stark realisation for an otherwise average Tuesday lunch. Honestly, the thought never would have occurred to me if I hadn’t seen him sitting a few metres away with his new friends. He looks relaxed, happy, as oblivious to my absence as I have been to his. Which is weird because we were practically inseparable for years.
Danny and I became best friends in Grade Four, when we realised we lived around the corner from each other. We’d spent whole summers visiting back and forth at each other’s houses, having sleep overs, hanging out. Once we’d spent a whole afternoon putting together a Star Wars Millennium Falcon Lego set. It had taken hours of work and the result was freaking awesome. The Falcon went into battle in Danny’s backyard, about an hour before sunset. We managed to destroy half a dozen Death Stars before the dog got hold of it and sprinted off. We’d laughed so hard we’d had trouble catching him to get it back.
This past summer had been different. My parents’ separation had left our family in chaos and he’d been off visiting his Dad in Sydney for the Christmas holidays. We’d been excited to see each other when school started again, but it didn’t take long to realise something was off. Danny, who was going by Dan now, had discovered rugby. He’d gone to a bunch of games with his dad and suddenly it seemed to be all he could talk about. Who made the best try last Friday night. Whether the right man was chosen for Man of the Match. Last year he hadn’t known the rules for the game but now suddenly he had strong opinions about the intelligence of the referee. Goddamn, it was boring.
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy sport. I just didn’t understand his fascination with watching other people play sport. Where was the fun in that? I preferred to play video games on my Xbox. Games where I was the one winning or losing, where my skill level mattered. Danny was into some video games, but not like me. When I started talking about the awesome shot I’d made in Halo his eyes would glaze over until I stopped talking, then he’d change the subject—back to rugby.
Crunch time came the day of his fourteenth birthday party. I could remember how sweaty my palms were when I arrived. I’d been breathing so hard it was like I’d just sprinted the length of the school oval instead of walking the distance between Mum’s car and the front door. Six other guys were already there by the time I arrived. I knew them from school, but they were more Danny’s friends than mine.
“Patrick, hey!” Danny grinned as he jumped up from the couch to welcome me. “Thanks for coming.”
“Thanks for inviting me.” I gave him his present. “Happy birthday, Danny… I mean, Dan.”
He ripped open the wrapping and suddenly I was nervous that he wouldn’t like his present. He would have loved it last year, but now, looking at the maroon jersey he wore and the merchandise piled on the coffee table, my present seemed like it was meant for someone else.
The excitement in his eyes dimmed as the Saturn V Rocket Lego set was revealed. “Wow, that’s great. Thanks.” The forced pleasure in his voice was a sucker punch to my gut. He turned away, so I couldn’t see the look he gave his new friends, but they didn’t bother trying to hide their sniggers.
“Good work, Patrick,” one of them drawled. “Maybe you can put that together for Dan while we watch the game this afternoon, right before you’re put down for your nap.”
“Brett, give it a rest,” Dan snapped, but he put the Lego box down beside an armchair instead of on the coffee table with the rest of the gifts. I had no idea what their problem was. It wasn’t a baby gift. The target age of 14+ was printed right there on the box.
Dropping into a chair, I resigned myself to spending the afternoon with a bunch of strangers who didn’t know a first-person shooter from a platform game.
My best friend had become one of those strangers. Because Dan wasn’t Danny anymore.
We stopped hanging out together at all after that party, but I don’t hold it against him. That’s the other thing I realise now, on top of the not missing him part. There’s no bad feelings there. He just changed.
There’s that word again. My mum stopped loving my dad because he changed. Danny stopped being my friend because he changed. I suppose Mum and I changed too, without really realising it.
It’s different for Danny and me though. We’re kids. We’re still figuring out who we are. It’s okay to change when you’re a kid.
By the time I’m old enough that losing people will start to matter more, I’ll know who I am. And so will everyone else.
The hope you enjoyed reading this little peek into Patrick’s past!